NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Prison & Jail Project announced Thursday its launch to file a lawsuit against the New Mexico Corrections Department. The New Mexico Prison & Jail Project is a new nonprofit legal organization that advocates for the civil rights of those who are incarcerated. NMPJP states that its mission is to protect peoples’ rights while detained in the state’s prisons and jails by filing civil rights lawsuits and other legal actions on their behalf.

“There simply aren’t enough lawyers in New Mexico willing to protect the legal rights of incarcerated people,” says Matthew Coyte in a news release from NMPJP, a civil rights attorney who serves on the NMPJP steering committee. “This new organization will help fill that void. New Mexico prisons and jails have been hotbeds of abuse and mistreatment for far too long. We need an organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of people detained in these facilities.” 

According to a news release by NMPJP, the new lawsuit against the New Mexico Corrections Department is based on NMPJP public records seeking information from the department about whether it’s complying with IPRA.

“Our courts have repeatedly said that in New Mexico the citizen’s right to know is the rule and secrecy is the exception,” says Jones. “But the New Mexico Corrections Department turns that on its head, making secrecy the rule and transparency the exception. Our research has revealed that at least 10 lawsuits have been filed against NMCD in 2020 alone because of the Department’s habitual violation of New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act. As advocates for those who are incarcerated, NMPJP demands that this Department follow this law,” said Barron Jones in the same news release, ACLU-NM Senior Policy Strategist, NMPJP steering committee member, and former journalist.

NMPJP says the lawsuit is designed to put pressure on the Corrections Department to begin taking New Mexico’s public records law more seriously. “Ultimately, NMPJP and other organizations, attorneys and private citizens shouldn’t have to waste time in court just to get NMCD to hand over basic records that they’re already required to hand over,” said NMPJP director Steven Robert Allen in the same news release.  

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